Modernising parliamentary democracy

The US Congress understands the importance of Special Forces oversight, why doesn’t the UK Parliament?

The US Congress understands the importance of Special Forces oversight, why doesn’t the UK Parliament?

The US Congress has recently ordered a review of the country’s special operations forces – something that the UK Parliament is unable to do. As special forces are increasingly used in actions overseas, and face growing questions about accountability and resources, Liam Walpole argues it is time for the UK government to abandon its outdated attitude and allow for the democratic oversight of special forces in Parliament.

Democratising Hansard: continuing to improve the accessibility of parliamentary records

Democratising Hansard: continuing to improve the accessibility of parliamentary records

The official, substantially verbatim report of what is said in both houses of Parliament is an essential tool for ensuring democratic accountability. This record, Hansard, contains a wealth of data, but it is not always fully accessible and easy to search. Lesley Jeffries and Fransina de Jager explain how a new project, Hansard at Huddersfield, aims to improve access to the Hansard records and contribute new ways of searching the data.

The UK needs a new electoral system not a new political party

The UK needs a new electoral system not a new political party

The new Independent Group of former Labour and Conservative MPs says it wishes to fix the UK’s broken politics. However, argues Jack Bridgewater, the first step in fixing politics at the centre is to reform the electoral system.

What will life be like in the Commons for the Independent Group?

What will life be like in the Commons for the Independent Group?

On 18 February, seven Labour MPs resigned from the Party to sit as an independent group. Operating without the formal support of a parliamentary party, they will face several institutional barriers to working effectively in the House of Commons, writes Louise Thompson.

Why geography matters: MPs with constituencies a long distance from Westminster choose different ways to represent their voters

Why geography matters: MPs with constituencies a long distance from Westminster choose different ways to represent their voters

MPs face demands on their time in both Westminster and their constituency. The greater the distance between the area they represent and Parliament, the more this requires trade-offs. David M. Willumsen finds that the type of parliamentary activities an MP takes part in is affected by the distance of their constituency from Westminster, which has implications for the principle of equal representation

Why can’t some parliamentary select committees get female witnesses?

Why can’t some parliamentary select committees get female witnesses?

In their nearly eponymous 1995 hit, Reverend Black Grape, I’m a Celebrity runners-up and Bargain Hunt cheats, Black Grape, asked ‘Can I get a witness?’ In 2019, why is it that some select committees seemingly find it difficult to get female witnesses to give evidence at their sessions? Marc Geddes, Mark Goodwin, Stephen Holden Bates and Steve McKay find that some of the answer may well be found in the gendered make-up of the committees themselves.

‘The ability of the UK Parliament to override a measure made in any part of the United Kingdom is one of the mischiefs in the UK’s constitution that needs fixing.’ Why it is time to reform the Sewel Convention

‘The ability of the UK Parliament to override a measure made in any part of the United Kingdom is one of the mischiefs in the UK’s constitution that needs fixing.’ Why it is time to reform the Sewel Convention

The Sewel Convention, by which the UK’s government normally seeks the consent of the devolved legislatures on matters that come within their competence, is enshrined in legislation. However, writes Matthew Hexter, it remains too weak and a constitutional convention is needed to fundamentally alter the balance of powers between London and the devolved nations.

The House of Commons and the Brexit deal: A veto player or a driver of policy?

The House of Commons and the Brexit deal: A veto player or a driver of policy?

If, as expected, the House of Commons rejects Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement, could it step in to determine what happens next? The House of Commons has not had to run anything directly since the Civil War in the 17th century, writes Andrew Kennon, and so could not long term: our political system depends on a government taking responsibility.

Confidence motions, humble addresses and amendments: Brexit’s procedural dilemmas

Confidence motions, humble addresses and amendments: Brexit’s procedural dilemmas

Brexit has revealed some of the tools that govern the legislative process and how these interact with party politics. Louise Thompson summarises the key procedural dilemmas faced in the Commons so far, and explains why things could get even more complicated in 2019.

How and when constitutional conventions change in Westminster democracies

How and when constitutional conventions change in Westminster democracies

Westminster democracies incorporate numerous constitutional conventions – the uncodified, informal rules and practices by which political institutions operate. Nicholas Barry, Narelle Miragliotta and Zim Nwokora identify some key patterns for when and how different types of conventions are modified, and suggest further research is needed to develop a fuller understanding of the dynamics of change for political conventions.